NFL Minnesota Vikings

NFL Week 6: Five Minnesota Vikings To Watch vs. Redskins

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NFL Week 6: Who Are The Key Minnesota Vikings To Watch?

Fed Ex Field

The Minnesota Vikings are one of the surprising stories through five weeks of the NFL season, as they are now 4-1 and tied for first place in the NFC North. They will take their three-game winning streak on the road for Week 6 against the Washington Redskins, who are 2-3 on the season after losing to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5.

The Vikings got one of their three wins in 2011 against the Redskins on the road last Christmas Eve, giving them wins in their last two trips to Washington. Of course last year’s game became noteworthy with running back Adrian Peterson suffering his knee injury, but he returns to the site of the injury showing little ill effects so far this season.

The Redskins face a big injury concern this week, as rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has his status in doubt after suffering a concussion during last week’s game against Atlanta. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins would make his first NFL start on Sunday if Griffin is unable to play, and he clearly does not have the all-around physical tools Griffin does. Washington has fairly inexplicably lost eight consecutive home games, so there will be no homefield advantage mystique on Sunday at FedEx Field.

The Vikings continue what looks like a stretch of very winnable games this week as they look to build upon their excellent start to the season. Here are the players whose performance I feel will be vital to any hopes of making it four wins in a row and a 5-1 start to the season for Minnesota.

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5. QB Christian Ponder

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The status of Griffin III will grab more headlines as Sunday’s game gets closer, but Ponder’s performance may be more vital to whether his team wins or loses the game. He finally threw his first interceptions of the season last week against the Tennessee Titans, so his ability to rebound and avoid mistakes will be a key to avoid giving the Washington offense a short field no matter who starts at quarterback. Ponder also left the D.C. area banged up last season, suffering facial lacerations and then a concussion on two separate hits, so he will be looking for a better, injury-free performance this time around.

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4. LB Jasper Brinkley

Jasper Brinkley

Brinkley was not thought to be well suited to playing in the Vikings’ nickel defense, but a concussion suffered by fellow linebacker Erin Henderson gave him the opportunity to be a three-down player over the last two games. He has been productive over those two games, with 15 total tackles, a forced fumble and pass breakup. Head coach Leslie Frazier has indicated Brinkley will continue to play all three downs even with Henderson healthy now, and as long as he is productive there’s no reason for that to change. Brinkley’s success as a run defender, pass defender and occasional blitzer will be a big key to any success the Minnesota defense has in Week 6.

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3. RT Phil Loadholt and LT Matt Kalil

Brett Davis

I’ll put both of the Vikings’ offensive tackles into focus here, as both may find themselves matched up with Redskins’ linebacker Ryan Kerrigan plenty during Sunday’s game. With Brian Orakpo out, Kerrigan is now Washington’s top pass rusher and he has not disappointed thus far with four sacks and 21 combined quarterback hurries and knockdowns. Kerrigan is likely to be moved around some by Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and if Kalil or Loadholt struggles to contain him even once they will see him again until they are able to keep him at bay. Protecting quarterback Christian Ponder is paramount every week, and both of Minnesota’s tackles will be important in that regard this week.

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2. DE Jared Allen

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Allen has not had a fantastic start to the season, with just nine total tackles, but he does have a sack in three straight games heading into Sunday. Allen has a marquee individual matchup with Redskins’ left tackle Trent Williams, who has allowed just one sack so far this season. Allen did have one sack in last season’s game against the Redskins, but Williams did not play in that game due to a suspension. The Vikings’ pass rush has to make life uncomfortable for whoever starts under center for the Redskins, and that has to start with Allen.

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1. RB Adrian Peterson

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Peterson has had no setbacks in his recovery from a torn left ACL, as he is currently eighth in the league with 420 rushing yards and also has 13 receptions through five games. Of course FedEx Field is the site of his injury late last season, but it seems unlikely there will be any psychological effects for Peterson due to that circumstance. He did injure his left ankle in last week’s game against Tennessee, but was able to play through the injury and it is not a big concern at this point. Look for Peterson to get 20-plus carries in Sunday’s game, and over 100 yards on the ground is a definite possibility.